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Last weekend was the first of as many as five consecutive weekends the busy subway line will be shut down between Flushing Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue and 61st Street in Woodside. The reduction in service allows the MTA to install a new signal system on the No. 7 line. Elected officials warned that the shutdown could have dire economic consequences for the Flushing economic hub during the first two weeks of February, when Flushing is bustling with shoppers preparing for the Lunar New Year festivities on Feb. 9. But the MTA said Tuesday if the weather cooperates this weekend, there should be no problem finishing the signal work in time for the holiday. Free Long Island Rail Road trains and free shuttle buses will provide alternate service for as many as 10,000 people during the weekend shutdowns, the MTA said. Officer Kevin O'Donnell of the 109th Precinct stressed that the ticket is one-way only westbound and riders will have to pay full fare to return to Flushing via the LIRR.As confused travelers attempted to pack onto dozens of buses clogging Flushing's streets while the No. 7 subway line was shuttered Saturday, City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing), Assemblywoman Ellen Young (D-Flushing) and state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) called for the MTA to complete its repairs to the line by the end of the month to avoid an economic disaster."We now call on the MTA to realize that the buses, though needed in the absence of subways, have taken over the main streets in Flushing and caused significant disruption to the business district," Liu said. "We call on the MTA to understand that the problem will be severely compounded in February at the height of the Lunar New Year festivities in Flushing."Flushing's Lunar New Year celebration, which will take place on Feb. 9, is one of the largest celebrations of the Asian holiday in the city, drawing thousands annually to the bustling Queens downtown. Young said the holiday is also a major shopping and travel time for the thousands of Asian families in the city. "Like Thanksgiving, the Lunar New Year is a time for family reunification - a time when families come together to eat, and celebrate the joys of the New Year," Young said. "Without the No. 7 train during this time, we can expect the chaos we see today to increase tenfold."Liu said the dozens of free shuttle buses used to supplement the loss of the subway clogged the streets of Flushing throughout the weekend, making travel in the area a nightmare. He said the MTA should have done a better job at informing the public about the service changes. The 109th Precinct, which covers Flushing, held a news conference in the weeks leading up to the delays detailing the changes that would be made. Officers from the precinct have also been distributing information at local civic groups and Community Board 7 to try and get the word out about the changes. Community Affairs Officer Kelly Glennon said regardless of what preparations are made, avoiding congestion during the repair period is impossible. "That's a lot of people and a lot of buses. It's going to be congested," she said.For more information on the service changes, log on to www.mta.info/nyct/service/subsrvn7.htm.Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at Sstirling@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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